Even in a pandemic, voices are important. In our new series about Cuba fashion, NYC stylist Evan Elkowitz shows what the island's fashion scene means to the designers, models and entrepreneurs who make it up.
Cimafunk
The author and Cimafunk. Photo credit: Xuan Linh

“Of all places, who would have thought… CUBA?” How does a Jewish fashion stylist from New York decide to go to Cuba on her own and later become a permanent fixture in the underground Cuba fashion world there?

I boarded my first flight to Havana and went straight from the airport into a lunch meeting with the Cuban team…the next day I was overseeing hair, makeup, and dressing four models.

I decided that I wanted to go to Havana in the fall of 2017. I was curious about Cuba after hearing from friends who each had different experiences there. After my husband declined my invitation to join me (LOL), I made a decision to book a ticket and go to Cuba on my own. Something was  telling me that I needed to go and the time was now.

cuba fashion
Photo credit: Xuan Linh 

A few days before my flight I received a phone call from a friend asking me if I would consider styling a photoshoot while in Havana. I agreed without hesitation. At a fashion appointment later that day in Manhattan, I was able to source the clothing that we would need to style the Cuban models.

Related Post: Cuba’s 1st Independent Fashion Brand: Startup Cuba Docuseries #6

cuba fashion
Photo credit: Xuan Linh

I boarded my first flight to Havana and went straight from the airport into a lunch meeting with the Cuban team that I would be working with on the shoot. At 7 a.m. the next day I was overseeing hair, makeup, and dressing four models. By 8 a.m. we were driving around Havana with the team where the only English-speaking people were myself and two others. It was hot and we were packed into an old van driving around Havana with models and photographers, ready to jump out and shoot at different locations throughout the city, and thus began one of the best days of my life.

I’ve organized two large-scale fashion shows featuring several local designers, from the internationally known Jacqueline Fumero and Michel D’Zuarez to Dador and Salomé.

I’ve been traveling back and forth to Cuba ever since that day. I’m proud of the many things I’ve been able to accomplish there. During my next several trips to Havana I met with many Cuban designers and conducted interviews, often with the help of an interpreter. I became fascinated with these incredibly talented people, and their ability to handcraft some of the most stylish pieces I’d ever seen. Through these interviews I realized that I had discovered something that most people in the United States knew very little about. Every time I left Cuba to head home tears would fill my eyes and I’d tell myself that I had to find a way to make an impact in amplifying the beauty that I had found in Cuba.

Related Post: Biking Cuba: Is Havana the Ideal City for Two Wheels?

cuba fashion
Photo credit: Xuan Linh

Over the course of several trips to Havana, I’ve met with dozens of fashion and accessory designers and models. I’ve organized two large-scale Cuba fashion shows featuring several local designers, from the internationally known Jacqueline Fumero and Michel D’Zuarez to Dador and Salomé. The shows not only brought together people from the fashion industry, but also creatives, artists, and musicians from across Havana. I’ve been able to bring back pieces from these creators, and share them with my fashion-inclined friends here in New York. 

cuba fashion
Photo credit: Xuan Linh

So here I am… beyond excited to  write this column and share the beautiful and real stories of so many talented designers and entrepreneurs I’ve had the chance to work with over these past few years. Cuba is soooo much much more than cigars, rum and classic cars… (although I do LOVE the rum!). I’m so lucky to have found my passion and a way to become involved in this incredible country. Here we go, get ready to get to know some of the most industrious people who are currently making waves in this incredible place that has become my second home.

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